Jayesslee: The Diasporic Duo

Jayesslee are twin sisters, second generation Korean Australian’s, and thanks to a strong and committed YouTube presence they are also succesful musicians (Jayesslee 2013). In fact according to their official website the duo reached over 1 million subscribers in 2013, which made them the most subscribed Australian YouTube channel (Jayesslee 2013).

Jayesslee video playlists. Screen shot by me.

Jayesslee video playlists. Screen shot by me.

On their YouTube channel the pair connect with their fan base with two types of video (see image above). The focus is on their music, however they also upload autobiographical-style videos which allow them to express a part of themselves, tell their stories and deliver their messages. They also frequently do this while introducing the songs that they sing, which largely consist of covers of recent pop hits. A reasonably large motivation behind the digital storytelling Jayseelee are engaged in is religious in nature. A small number of the songs covered by the duo have been specifically Hillsong or religious in nature.

“Their ultimate goal and motivation behind every video is to share about the hope they have found in knowing Jesus. The two are not shy in expressing their faith and indicate they would not be doing what they do if it weren’t for His grace and providence. All the glory to Him.” (Jayseelee 2013)

In addition to YouTube, Jayseelee utilize digital platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, iTunes, as well as their own personal website which does a rather good job of coordinating and cenralizing the content hosted on their other platforms. Based on the latest updates on each of the platforms I assume that the duo aren’t active right now, and haven’t been for about a year. Although it’s never explicitly stated that the two are on hiatus, the most recent post on Facebook was a pregnancy announcement which would (understandably) put performances on hold for a little while. Again, there is an aspect of intimate, private-life sharing to the digital story being shared by the duo, who have been open about sharing engagements, weddings and pregnancies with their audience.

I do quite like these videos. Jayseelee certainly have a consistent sound and style that they bring with every cover they do, so the songs feel like proper performances rather than karaoke. They also share a lot of themselves across all of the videos, which aids the performative aspect to the videos and story overall. Their channel hosts several videos filmed on tour, which feel like video postcards from places like Malaysia, Singapore and Vancouver. Several of their earlier videos I have found feature discussion of Korean customs and cultural viewpoints, for example the younger of the twins (even if only by a minute) must pay respect to the older twin (see video above). Although as a cultural outsider its not entirely clear if this is meant in jest or not. But they do cover a few native Korean songs as well, both pop and more traditional ones. As far as I’ve seen however, they don’t actually share a lot about their diasporic experiences growing up in Sydney being raised by native Korean parents. But what they do share between their songs and personal stories begins to form a larger picture the more you watch. It starts to build a mosaic of sorts our of their various cross-cultural, religious and personal experiences. However in building such a complex and fragmented picture, I must also be aware that I am making cultural assumptions whenever I am bridging the gaps in these narratives.


 

References

Jayesslee 2013, ‘About Us’, Jayesslee, viewed 24 August 2014 http://www.jayesslee.com/about

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7 comments

  1. Great post, the aspect of intimate, private life sharing by bands has been something that has been intriguing me for some time. It seems like we used to like the mystic of a band, now it’s actually possible to be more of a fan of the people in the band than their music. I say this from personal experience – a couple of years ago I saw a YouTube clip of this band Tegan and Sara, the banter they had between songs in this show was so funny and a lot of it was personal anecdotes, I’ve been a big fan since. It’s strange though that their music isn’t what keeps me as a fan, it mainly due to the funny personal stories. The girls in Tegan and Sara are twin sisters as well, I wonder if Jayesslee got wind of the type of interpersonal video documentation that Tegan and Sara use and actively tried to incorporate this technique into their project for marketing purposes, maybe not but maybe.

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  2. I think I just found my new favourite Youtube channel! They sound awesome and I agree that their covers don’t sound at all like karoke, they have their own style, which you could argue could be attributed to their cultural heritage-not because they are Korean, but because they do have been exposed to a wider range of infleunces to draw from. Also it’s interesting you mention that they don’t share their diasporic experiences, but do share personal stories and songs, which you could argue to some extent are diasporic experiences by nature because they do have experience of both cultures, expecially the videos they have taken in other countries.

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  3. As you have touched on in your post and mentioned in the comments, though it might be purely coincidental it is interesting to note their documenting of their international travels. I remember Natalie Tran aka Community Channel also going on a extensive trip, sponsored by Lonely Planet. It seems as if this is a natural progression of the diasporic experience, extending it further to different cultural scenarios, providing a unique perspective on the experience. There is the potential for a more literal exploration for example when they visit their parent’s or grandparent’s country(s) of origin, where the effect that their living experience can be better analysed. I think it might be interesting to investigate the results of exploration of these degrees of further separation.

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  4. Great choice for a peripheral Diasporic group. Jayesslee are so good! It’s interesting as singers that they also do incorporate this aspect of digital storytelling into their videos. I feel as though this has made their video’s more personal and has given there fans a further look into their lives as Korean Australians. Another thing i enjoyed about them that you mentioned is that, they do not sound like karaoke they are actually performing and making the songs their own.

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  5. You’ve touched on all the relevant autoethnographic elements of digital storytelling that I found important when researching my own project! (background history, current identity of subject, method of expression, situation in cultural context). I think the Korean-Australian perspective and Jayesslee’s position in the Asian diaspora is a unique viewpoint that we haven’t seen much throughout the subject, and you’ve used some great examples to show how the traditional and the modern are used to give meaning to their personal experiences. I can see this leading to the creation of a successful digital artefact e.g. playlists, curated countdown lists etc.

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  6. I think that the way they set their video with both music and autobiographical is a large part of their success (and of course their talent).
    It is interesting to see the different markets for people and how an individuals race can impact that. I like how you mention that in your post.
    These girls are tailoring their songs to the audience which helps drive their popularity.

    Great post!

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